SIMON BARERE -- CARNEGIE HALL CONCERTS
VOLUME II: CHOPIN: Fantasie in f minor, Op. 49. Nocturne
No. 8 in D flat. LISZT: Un sospiro. La leggierezza.
FunÈrailles. Petrarch Sonnet No. 104. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 in
C# minor. SCRIABIN: Etude in D flat, Op. 8/10. RACHMANINOFF:
Prelude in G# minor, Op. 32/23. Prelude in G minor, Op. 23/5. (all
recorded March 9, 1947)
Simon Barere (1896 - 1951) unquestionably was one of the most phenomenal pianists of the 20th Century. (For him not to be included in the Philips Great Pianists of the 20th Century series is preposterous, perhaps the greatest of several major oversights of the series). Born September 1, 1896 in Odessa, the eleventh of thirteen children, he studied piano when young, advanced quickly and soon helped support his family by playing in cinemas and restaurants. He went to St. Petersburg where he duly impressed Glazunov who was able to waive regulations that prevented Jews from studying at the Conservatory, and kept the young man in the Conservatory longer than necessary to protect him from compulsory Army conscription. While at the Conservatory, Barere studied with Annette Essipova, a leading teacher of the time. After her death he studied with Felix Blumenfeld, whose other pupils included Heinrich Neuhaus, Vladimir Horowitz and Maria Grinberg. Upon graduation Barere won the prestigious Rubinstein Prize at which time Glazunov said, "Barere is Franz Liszt in the one hand and Anton Rubinstein in the other."
After graduation Barere began his virtuoso career, at the same time holding the post of Professor of Piano at Kiev Conservatory. Married to Helen Vlashek, a fellow student, his career was drastically hindered by the ban on touring outside the Soviet Union. In 1932 he was able to move his wife and son, Boris, to Berlin, but because of Hitler's persecution of Jews, Barere was unable to give concerts and once again had to play in cabarets and vaudeville stages to support his family.
Simon Barere made his British recital debut in 1934, an event so successful that HMV signed him for a series of recordings (issued on APR CDAPR 7001, 2 CDs) That year he also made his British concerto debut, with Sir Thomas Beecham conducting, playing the Tchaikovsky First. One can assume that Barere was more disciplined in his performance than Horowitz was when he made his American debut with Sir Thomas and the New York Philharmonic playing the same concerto in January 1928. (Presumably by 1934 Beecham had learned the TchaikovskyGlenn Plaskin's biography of Horowitz gives a detailed account of the conductor's inadequacies, forgetfulness and perverseness at Horowitz's debut).
Barere made his American debut with a recital in Carnegie Hall November 9, 1936, to highest acclaim. He gave many concerts, touring Australia, New Zealand and South America as well as the United States, where he gave a series of concerts in Carnegie Hallmajor events on the musical scene. His final concert was April 2, 1951 when he was performing Grieg's Piano Concerto with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra in Carnegie Hall only to collapse at the keyboard from a fatal cerebral hemorrhage.
Barere's recordings are quite limited. He recorded no concertos commercially, and only the group of HMV solo recordings from 1934/1936. The remainder of his recorded legacy consists of live performances recorded in Carnegie Hall by his son Boris, who made them whenever finances permitted. These were 78 rpm acetates cut in a remote room in Carnegie Hall without visual contact with the stage resulting in occasional, but fortunately not very often, missing sections of music. Many of these live recordings were issued on LP almost a half-century ago on the budget-priced Remington label; in the era of CD, APR issued them in far superior sound (7001, 7008, 7009). The first of these (7001) contains the complete HMV recordings (1934-1936) and remains in the catalog. The others have been discontinuedalthough they are still listed in Schwann/Opus.
Now APR has remastered (with great success) all of these recordings and is in the process of reissuing not only what previously was available, but a few additional items as well. The first two volumes have been released. Volume III will be issued later this year with the two remaining sets scheduled for 2001.
Volume I opens with Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 performed May 17, 1946 with the New York Philharmonic conducted by David Broekman, a "pop" concert which apparently had limited rehearsal. Barere's performance is demoniac, not without an occasional false note, but unquestionably one of the most exciting recordings of this music. The remaining works on the CD are from a concert November 18, 1946, the featured work being Barere's only Beethoven recording, the Sonata No. 31 in A Flat, heard after a scintillating super-Romantic performance of Bach's Chromatic fantasia and fugue. Because of recording difficulties mentioned above, Chopin's F minor Fantasia is incomplete (this work can be heard in its entirety in Volume II, from a later concert); Chopin is cut short again in the appendixed item, the Ballade No. 4, which is missing the first 14 bars. The remainder of the CD is Barere at his finest. We have his mentor, Glazunov's, Etude in C, two solo works of Liszt mentioned above (there is no more mercurial performance of Gnomenreigen on recordings), and a stunning performance of the Presto from Weber's First Sonata.
Volume II was recorded March 9, 1947 and opens with Chopin's f-minor Fantasy. Liszt is the prime composer on this CD, two concert etudes: a melting account of Un sospiro, and a staggering performance of La leggierezza, as well as what probably is the definitive recorded performance of FunÈrailles. Also we have Liszt's Petrarch Sonnet 104 and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12.. The three encores that were recorded are Scriabin's Etude, Op. 8/10, and two Rachmaninoff preludes, in G minor and G sharp minor.
These APR reissues are of enormous interest to those interested in the art of playing the piano. Each CD booklet begins with the same 3 1/2 page biography; it might have been more helpful for the collector if this space had been used for more information about Barere, where he performed and repertory he played. I eagerly look forward to remaining issues in the series.
R.E.B. (JULY 2000)